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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
'Self-defence first' for US
Two US Air Force warplanes
The entire US military machine is being reviewed
Jonathan Marcus

The United States plans to shift its priority to defending itself according to a strategic review document.

The Quadrennial Defence Review also recommends that the requirement that US forces be capable of simultaneously fighting two regional wars be amended.

Instead, it suggests that they be able to win one conflict decisively while holding their positions in another.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Mr Rumsfeld arguments are now stronger than ever
The review document was largely written before the terrorist attacks of 11 September and is just part of a much broader effort to recast the US military machine for the strategic challenges of the 21st century.

But given the enormity of last month's events and the ongoing US military operations, the final word in the review of the Pentagon and its activities is yet to be written.

New urgency

In addition to the Quadrennial Defence Review - mandated by Congress - the Bush Administration has embarked upon a sweeping defence review of its own where nothing is sacred.

A US Navy SH-60H Seahawk helicopter prepares to land on the US aircraft carrier USS Constellation
Reviews are being carried out with a new urgency since 11 September

Everything from the size of the nuclear stockpile to the weaponry that will equip the US armed forces in decades to come, is being looked at.

But in the wake of 11 September, the work has taken on a new urgency and the review provides some useful pointers as to the direction of US thinking.

Homeland defence - the defence of the United States itself - has been restored as the armed forces' primary mission.

The document has also put a new emphasis on Asia.

Frightening reality

The lessons of the current crisis will inevitably have to feed into the planning process.

Areas like intelligence gathering and analysis will take on added importance.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld looked a little shaky just a few weeks ago. His efforts to convince the military of the need for fundamental change were not appreciated by many senior commanders.

Most analysts now believe that he has emerged from this current crisis transformed.

But his greatest test still lies ahead. He must make sense of the new strategic priorities and craft a spending programme that equips the US military for the challenges that are no longer in a notional future, but that have become part of a frightening new reality.

See also:

20 Sep 01 | Americas
Profile: Donald Rumsfeld
10 Sep 01 | Americas
Rumsfeld hits out at bureaucracy
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Decoding Taleban's message
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
25 Sep 01 | Americas
Guide to military strength
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
Funding the 'heroes of Islam'
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